If the budget of the National Armed Forces is increased, the budget of the Home Guard will increase as well, Saeima National Security Committee Chairman Valdis Zatlers (Reform Party) told reporters on May 22, reports LETA. The Saeima National Security Committee, National Armed Forces Commander Lieutenant General Raimonds Graube and the Home Guard Command discussed the Home Guard’s finances and social guarantees. 8,000 voluntary home guards should receive some financial support if they are self-employed. If they are employees, their employers should allow them to study and serve in the Home Guard. Currently home guards have access only to 50 or 60 percent of the required funds. The Home Guard receives approximately 12 percent of the National Armed Forces’ budget. However, the defense sector is not allotted the NATO standard of 2 percent of GDP. Instead, the defense sector receives 1 percent of GDP, pointed out Zatlers. The good cooperation between the Home Guard and the State Police in maintaining order was discussed as well at the meeting. The number of home guards should be raised from 8,000 to 17,000, added Zatlers.
The total cost of the Palace of Light National Library project will reach 187 million lats (267 million euros), reports LETA. This includes the construction of the building, including infrastructure and furniture, as well as equipment, moving costs, and other costs to ensure the building can be successfully opened. Maris Saukans, representative of the construction companies participating in the National Library project, said during a presentation event on May 22 that the building itself is almost complete. Saukans said that the main task now will be to complete the construction of the building’s infrastructure, put in the remaining flooring, as well as carry out various other final touches. The building’s roofing is also expected to be completed in the coming weeks. It is likely that the National Library’s branches in Riga will begin to move into the building at the beginning of 2014, which should be completed by August 2014. The new Palace of Light National Library is one of the most important projects of the 21st century in Latvia, which will become a modern world-class information and culture center.
From May 19 through May 23, Vatican Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was in Latvia for meetings with top Latvian officials to primarily discuss Vatican-Latvia cooperation, reports LETA. Cardinal Koch was to hold talks with President Andris Berzins and Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, among others. The distinguished guest was scheduled to also become acquainted with ecumenical traditions and practice in Latvia. His scheduled tour included a number of historic points of interest and a meeting with the Christian clergy and members of the Jewish community. On Tuesday the Cardinal was to deliver the keynote address at the University of Latvia conference titled Identity and Openness.